Baseball Star Brian Wilson Becomes First-Ever Athlete to Host Virtual Event

Brian Wilson

San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson will soon become the first athlete in history to host a virtual event, virtual event firm ON24 Inc. announced last week. Wilson, who's known for his signature beard, will host ON24's annual virtual user conference, VUE2011, on Nov. 17, 2011. His message — "fear the beard, not the technology" — will promote virtual events as a way to reach large numbers of people without the time and expense associated with hosting an event in a physical location, like a convention center of hotel ballroom.

"I'm hosting the VUE because I know what it takes to win, in both sports and business," Wilson said. "Just like in baseball, business success requires confidence and communication. You also need the right equipment. Virtual events are the communications platform for high-performance companies. In the VUE, you'll learn all about how to easily take your events — and your content — virtually anywhere. Remember, fear the beard, not the technology."

Available on all leading mobile devices, including iPhones, VUE2011 will not mimic trade shows and conventions, like the virtual events that are designed to replace or supplement them do. Instead, it will feature business executives sharing virtual event best practices as Wilson — a virtual 3-D host — takes attendees on a virtual tour of San Francisco, where ON24 is headquartered.

"We've also developed a unique application for video animation, using it to guide the VUE attendee from one place to another through a cable car. It's very San Francisco, and it's very fun," said ON24 CMO Denise Persson. "We are designing this virtual environment as a showcase for all the creative possibilities available through our industry-leading platform."

Survey: Athletes Make Great Speakers

ON24 selected Wilson as its virtual host, it said, because people have lost faith in corporate leaders during the economic downturn. In fact, it surveyed 100,000 executives and found that 71 percent say athletes are being used frequently in corporate events, with 18 percent asserting that athletes are being used more frequently than ever before. Other key findings:

• Executives say athletes are better received at corporate events because they don't talk in "corporate speak" and instead speak like "real people" (64 percent); because sports has a true relevance to the business world (27 percent); because we have developed trust in athletes by watching them perform on a regular basis (25 percent); and because we hate our jobs and wish we could something we love like athletes do (11 percent).

• Twenty-two percent of executives said they're using athletes for corporate events because the economy has weakened people's confidence in traditional corporate speakers.

• Executives either agree or strongly agree that teamwork (90 percent), reacting quickly (82 percent), persistence (78 percent), celebrating victories (74 percent) and being the best (73 percent) are qualities in sports that apply to business.

• Executives said originality (79 percent), professional demeanor (73 percent) and a winning record (57 percent) are the most important qualities for an interesting corporate event emcee.

• Executives said there are benefits to seeing their favorite athlete from their computer or mobile device instead of "in the flesh," including convenience (75 percent), not having to camp out for a good seat (48 percent), being able to "fast forward" through the athlete's address if they get bored (43 percent) and being able to forward the address to friends if they want to share it (33 percent).

"With the economy suffering, our survey shows that three out of four executives are either using or considering using virtual events in the next 12 months because they are the perfect solution for companies wanting to communicate effectively in a tough market," Persson said. "We asked Brian Wilson to join our team for the VUE because we knew he had the qualities that executives look for and ON24 shares — originality and top performance. During this time of economic uncertainty these executives don't 'fear the beard,' but an uncertain economy. At ON24, we are dedicated to providing webcasting and virtual event solutions that lead to the engaging communication enterprises need to score a home run."